Saturday, December 26, 2015

Golden Gate Ficus Trim and Shower

Last year I got Chris this Golden Gate Ficus bonsai tree for Valentine's day, and it arrived by mail in pretty good shape. I saw it putting out new leaves all throughout the summer, but I guess I didn't realize just how well it was doing until I compared it to the previous post.

We've had a rainy warm December, so I decided to give it a quick shower in the rain and then bring it back inside. I don't think it's supposed to get below 55°F but a quick rain in 46°F won't hurt anything. The rain also dusted off the leaves for me, and now they look waxy and gorgeous. 

I gave the leaves a quick trim to round out the shape and make it look more like a tree and less like a bush. I don't know what true bonsai trimming looks like, but I think as long as it looks like a mini tree I'm on the right track. 

golden gate ficus
Bonsai form Golden Gate Ficus after a quick trim. Before and after shots are another reason why I'm glad I keep this journal: Compare it to when it first arrived!

When I cut the thicker branches, some milk white sap came out of the tips. 

white sapwhite sap

 I didn't take much off, just a few of the larger leaves. I tried to give it an overall rounded profile.

trim golden gate ficus bonsai
Golden Gate Ficus leaves trimmed up

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Winter Solstice Yard Update

It's been a warm December so far, drizzly and 50's all week and predicted high of 64 on Wednesday. It always seems wild, but then again I remember playing golf on Christmas Day before - so that's just Midwest weather. Today is the December Solstice, the shortest day of the year. I was going to put a rock out to mark the shadow of the fence at noon and compare that to the shadow in summer, but it's gray and cloudy.

I did stroll around my yard, and wanted to post some photos of things I thought were interesting.

lavendar wee one in winterPinus mugo var. pumilio

First up (above) I like the color contrast of my dwarf mugo pine [Pinus mugo var. pumilio] turning slightly golden yellow in winter alongside this dwarf lavender [Lavandula angustifolia 'Wee One'] that is an icy blue. Very nice!

Arenaria 'Wallowa Mountains'
Arenaria 'Wallowa Mountains' looking a little less than stellar but still alive

I checked in with my favorite little Arenaria 'Wallowa Mountains' and it's not looking so hot. I'll probably order another and try to get it in the ground quickly this spring so it can have as good a chance as possible. Maybe this one will bounce back, it's rated for much colder zones so maybe it will be fine. 

yard storm drain
I took the erosion barrier off the storm drain at the bottom corner of the yard. The grass still has to grow in around it, but it already looks nicer not having that 3 foot tall black square in the yard. I'm thinking about putting a few clumps of iris around it to see if they take off in the damp low spot.

vole holes in yard
At the bottom of the yard we've got vole holes in the tallish grass near the neighbor's fence. They're all aiming toward the neighbor's yard, so I bet they have more tall grass on the other side. You can even see some hamster size poops outside the hole on the right.
Now this is pretty cool. When I got the iris clumps from my dad they came with little tiny succulents that were long and stringy probably from the shade. I had them in the side yard all last year and they remained long and stringy (big surprise). I took a couple pieces and broke them off, and put them in the rocks. What do you know! They took and now I have a couple little succulent babies in full sun so they look much nicer, darker, and like little buttons. Hope they last the winter!

unknown succulents in winter
Unknown succulents hitchhiked from Ohio on some iris, now I have to identify them. Can't believe they are dark green and thriving in December here in central Indiana.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Indoor ZZ Plant with One Leaf Turning Yellow

My ZZ Plants are extremely slow growing, but require next to no attention at all. I'll go weeks without thinking twice about them, and then remember that they are alive and need water. I divided one clump that I bought into 2 pots, and put one in the bathroom and one in the front office. The bathroom only has a tiny 3 ft x 6 in window, so I'm amazed these plants are able to thrive and put on new growth in such dark dry conditions.

zz plant yellow leaf
Only the 2nd new sprout on this plant in about 11 months!


The one in the front office is putting up a new shoot. This is always exciting because it's only happened 4 times in the year that I've owned them. They are succulents and store energy in a massive bulb under the soil - then when they build up enough resources to launch a new sprout it shoots up relatively quickly.

zz plant yellow leaf
Slow growing ZZ plant with yellow leaf on the very oldest stem


I have 1 conspicuous yellow leaf on the plant in the office. It looks a little bizarre. It's from the oldest sprout on the plant, so probably just letting it go to favor the new growth. It isn't a blotchy yellow like some photos I've seen online, it's a total yellowing. I hear these things sometimes lose leaves seasonally as well, but this is my first one.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Trying to Stay Green During December Heat Wave

We had a couple days of upper 60's weekend, so I got a little bit of yard work done around the utility box bed. I also snapped a few photos of my yard status showing how it's trying to stay green as long as possible into the winter. It darn well should because I paid for extra treatments from the fertilizer company. I'm wishing I did some autumn mulching in places, but overall not too bad.

green grass next to yellow grass
Can you tell which yard is mine?
This was the first year where the utility box bed in the front grew in all the way. In fact, the Russian sage went a little crazy - I'm glad it was considered a smaller version of Russian sage 'Little Spire' because I can't imagine how out of hand it would have been if it was a fuller version.

The Karl Foerster grass grew in nicely - very early riser in Spring and looked nice all year long. The only problem was that I didn't plan the mulch bed wide enough to acomodate the grass hanging over the edge a bit. I'm torn because I don't want to expand the mulch too much because it looks weird in winter to have this giant bare spot - but in the summer I don't like trying to mow under an ornamental grass and I don't want it to look crowded.

I'm also hoping my cone flower self-seed and multiply because the little pop of color is definitely nice so it's not JUST Russian sage getting all the attention.

hide utility box landscapehide utility box landscape

Special shout out to Shasta daisy keeping dark green leaves this far into December. I got them over the 4th of July from my parents and it looks like they rooted in really well. My neighbors said I could go ahead and landscape their side of the box too. I know the Shasta daisy will spread but hopefully they don't mind - right now they just have a little tiny strip of mulch on their side.

shasta daisy

Finally, and I know I've talked about it before, but I've got some serious white fungus on the grass in my side yard. In fact, when my roommate Kenny walked along the side yard I could see a little cloud of white powder get kicked up at his feet. Wooooow. I might have to re-seed that whole side yard come Spring.

white tips on grass fungus
White powder mildew on grass in both side yards now

Mugo Pine Used in Commercial Landscaping?

I went to check out the new Cabela's store in Noblesville yesterday. Since it just opened this Fall, the landscaping was pretty on point. I did notice something a little unusual though - so much that it made me want to take a picture. Instead of the usual boxwood or sweetspire, they were using what looked like mugo pine as evergreen shrubs.

mugo pine in commercial landscapemugo pine in commercial landscape

I've never seen mugo pine used in commercial landscapes like this. Look, a whole row of them! Not that it has never been done before, it is just uncommon in my area. And probably more expensive than the usual options.

They're very cute - I wonder how big they are going to get.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Frozen Fog Frosted Tips

November has some cool frozen fog, which left my Northwind switchgrass with crystal white frosted tips. I was hoping they would jingle in the breeze, but no such luck. Nevertheless, they look very cool. The stems don't have any frost on them at all, but the dried seeds up top gathered tiny droplets of condensation in the fog that froze into a thin white layer of frost that contrasts with the dry yellow stems.

frozen white northwind switch grass

I was looking forward to seeing the yellow dry grass contrasting against white snow, but we've already had one snowfall and it's already starting to make the grass fall over. I don't think it's going to stay upright all winter - but I don't want to cut it down yet because it looks nice and blocks the storm drain cover.
frozen northwind switch grasswinter northwind switch grass

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Pruning Annabelle Hydrangea Higher this Winter

I decided to prune my Annabelle hydrangea a little higher up this winter, hoping the woody growth from last year will help support the stalks in the wind. It's a bit of a trade off, because although the new stems will be taller and therefore higher in the breeze, the base of support is woody and stronger so maybe they won't blow over quite so much. The new buds should also promote a bushier appearance (in theory). I'll check back in this spring and see if my plan worked. In the meantime, my dogs do love chewing on the twigs sticking out of the ground!

Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'
Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' cut a little higher up, above the 2nd set of buds on each stem

Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'
Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' pruned and standing in snow

Here's a look back at how low I pruned them last year, you can see that they only have 2 buds per stem because I chopped them all the way to the ground. We'll see if they bush out a bit more this year.

Is Green Panda Bamboo Evergreen in My Zone?

The Fargesia rufa 'Green Panda' bamboo that I transplanted outside this Spring is going strong, and is holding its deep green color. It's almost December! I'm wondering if this green panda is supposed to be evergreen in my zone 6a here in central Indiana.

green panda evergreen
Fargesia rufa 'Green Panda' looking very green on November 29, 2015 in Zone 6a

Every source I can find says that it is indeed cold hardy to zone 5, but I haven't seen anything about it being evergreen. It's certainly doing better than my Japanese painted fern that took a poop at the first snowfall!

Athyrium nipponicum 'Pictum' winter
Japanese painted fern - Athyrium nipponicum 'Pictum' - decidedly not of the evergreen persuasion

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Ruby Falls Weeping Redbud in Winter

Cercis canadensis ‘Ruby Falls’ my maroon weeping redbud has finally dropped all its leaves and now I have this crooked walking stick profile with little black buds all over it next to my front walk. I was thinking about wrapping it in Christmas lights, but I was too afraid to damage the buds.

These are really important to keep intact, because that's where the purple flowers will appear this Spring. I can't wait to see the flowers for a nice Spring effect. I remember driving down the highway in March/April and being able to pick out redbud from the road because they produce wisps of purple against the drab backdrop.

This will be a fun mini tree to watch throughout the seasons.

redbuds black buds in winter
Cercis canadensis ‘Ruby Falls’ little black buds in winter

young weeping redbud in winter
Cercis canadensis ‘Ruby Falls’ - young weeping redbud in winter

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - November 2015

The grasses are turning yellow and I can't wait to see them against a blanket of snow. I fluffed up my mulch, trimmed my melting hostas, and was getting ready for a long winter's nap. September we had gorgeous purple in every part of the yard, and by October things were really starting to slow down. I didn't think it was going to be a very interesting Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day this month (the 15th of ever month).

But what's this? This fleabane next to my house, Erigeron speciosus 'Darkest of All' is still blooming.

Erigeron speciosus 'Darkest of All'
Erigeron speciosus 'Darkest of All'

I noticed new buds just beginning to open on October 30th, and I figured when the first frost came they would wilt away. We've had several very frosty mornings here in central Indiana since then, and these flowers are still opening.

Erigeron speciosus 'Darkest of All'
Photo taken on October 30, 2015


I wonder if it has to do with the fact that it's near the house which is warmer, or because this plant was new in the Spring and might be giving it a last 'hoorah' after establishing some roots.

I also wanted to give Little Henry an honorable mention (Itea virginica 'Sprich' Little Henry) for putting out nice fall color its first year. Although my expectations were high "If burning bush has good fall color then this plant is a wildfire!" - it was still able to produce a nice deep red in full sun and is holding its leaves longer than anything else in my yard.

Itea virginica 'Sprich' Little Henry
Itea virginica 'Sprich' Little Henry

little henry

This should be the last of the blooms until Spring for me, but I think next month I'll highlight some of my winter interest items, like dried hydrangea flowers, red juvenile river birch bark, and golden Northwind switch grass.

Friday, October 30, 2015

And It Was All Yellow...

I have that Coldplay song Yellow stuck in my head as I look at all my plants turning yellow and ugly and getting ready for winter. Yuck. I'm fine with my plants in winter, especially looking forward to my Northwind switch grass contrasting against the snow - but the slow transition is not so great. Most of my plants don't have a good fall color, at least this year. It's all sort of yellow brown.

Cercis canadensis ‘Ruby Falls’
Ruby Falls weeping redbud -  Cercis canadensis ‘Ruby Falls’

Hosta 'Sum and Substance'
Hosta 'Sum and Substance'

Annabelle hydrangea
Annabelle hydrangea

River birch
River birch

Panicum virgatum 'Northwind'
Northwind switch grass - Panicum virgatum 'Northwind'

Liriope muscari 'Variegata'
Liriope muscari 'Variegata'

fall yard
My fall yard leaves something to be desired...

Silver White Spots on Grass: Powdery Mildew

I've had powdery mildew on plant leaves before, but this is my first time seeing it on grass in my side yard. My west side yard is moist and flat, so it's not surprising that this area got a fungal disease. Powdery mildew looks like white spray paint on the blades of grass, and from an angle almost looks silver. I even noticed my footprints looked silver because it caused the blades to line up on their sides and make the white stand out compared to the grass around my foot prints.

white powder spots on lawn
Powdery mildew on grass looks like white powder or spray paint on the blades

grass dying in shadewhite grass blades

Long term solution is to get better air flow or circulation over the area so the grass doesn't stay damp, and make sure to not make it worse by watering too much or watering at night. The fungus should die over the winter (hopefully) so I'm not too worried about it. Ok so this article says it can survive the winter as spores, but the conditions in spring should be a little airier than this wet October we've been having.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - October 2015

I've still got some color on this gorgeous Fall day! The weather has been dry and sunny, not as wet as last year. That means more watering to be done for the trees and relatively new lawn, and nice clear nights for stargazing.

It's the day after Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, so I thought I'd submit my day-late post since I have the day off on this beautiful Friday.

Let's see what we have today... My hardy pampas grass in the corner of the yard is doing great in its first full growing season. It put up one massive stalk with a wonderful feathery plume on top, and there are 2 more much shorter stalks going up. One of the smaller ones bloomed just the other day. It's odd to see one 9 foot and two 4 foot stalks, but I guess it just couldn't muster the energy to make these as tall as the first.

pampas grass plume
Smaller bloom on Erianthus ravennae 'Hardy Pampas Grass', see taller one here
Next, the all-star of my Fall garden has been the New England aster 'Purple Dome' - the flowers are maturing and drying up a bit, but from a distance the purple color is still a nice touch. I noticed the pollinators started arriving once the flowers had matured a bit rather than right when they opened.

Aster novae-angliae 'Purple Dome'
Aster novae-angliae 'Purple Dome'
Other honorable mentions to go Armeria maritima 'Dusseldorf Pride' for blooming for a second time in their first year (I just put them in this Spring). And Salvia sylvestris 'Little Night' that has been sputtering out but still holding color after dead-heading a few rounds of earlier blooms.


Finally, my Russian sage 'Little Spire' is doing a great job hiding the utility box in the front yard, but also provides a great hiding place for rabbits - so I have mixed feelings at this point. At least the purple flowers add some color to what is becoming a big messy brush patch.

russian sage october
Russian sage 'Little Spire' getting a little brushy
It's also worth mentioning that my linden tree out front still has a good amount of yellow leaves on it. This time last year it was completely bare. After 1.5 years of no growth, I'm hoping to see some action this Spring since it will have had plenty of time to get its roots in order.

Ferns on the Menu in Latest Rabbit Attack

Curse you rabbits! The local cottontails struck again, once again hitting my ostrich fern [Matteuccia struthiopteris], Japanese forest grass [Hakonechloa macra], and this time the Japanese painted fern [Athyrium nipponicum 'Pictum'] on the other side of my house too.

painted fern rabbits
A young Japanese painted fern with rabbit damage
japanese forest grass sprout
My precious baby Japanese forest grass undergoing its third devastating attack
ostrich fern sprout
Tiny new ostrich fern sprout compromised by rabbit snacking
 The rabbits seem to come through in waves. They must have other places they patrol as well, because they aren't in my utility box planter during the day - although I know this is their home base in my yard because I scared one out of here one morning.

rabbit brush
I know exactly where they hide at night, so it's my own fault I guess. This is the only brush in the whole neighborhood, so it makes sense they would be here and nibble on things close to this area.
I sprinkled more repellent in the brushy area and around a couple of the plants they seem to like. I'm not ready to start putting chicken wire cylinders around all my young fleshy sprouts just yet, but so far the repellents don't seem to be working too well.
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